Salta, La Linda

2016.Feb.05 Friday · 3 comments

in Life, Restaurants

Henry and I just spent a trio of days up in Salta and the area north of there, in the far northwest of the country. It’s the first time we’ve been there (other than passing nearby and along part of the same route when we went to Bolivia a decade ago). Our original intent was a trip to Cafayate, where we had a complimentary stay at one of the wineries lined up, but, when we started looking at the travel time involved between the two, and what lay in store, we decided to stay in Salta and explore from there. Video of the trip, with music, followed by a roundup of the food, coming right up.

On to the food:

patioempanadas1
patioempanadas2
patioempanadas3
Patio de Empanadas is pretty much just what it sounds like. It’s a big open patio area, surrounded by little kiosks all selling empanadas, tamales, and humitas. Selling is the operative word, because if you get within 50 meter of the places the waitresses start calling to you, trying to get you to come in and sit down at one of the tables in “their section”. The menus are short and sweet, there’s little else to order, just something to drink with your nibbles. The only shame is there doesn’t seem to be a way to sit down at one spot and have samples brought to you from more than one hawker – you have to get up and move to the next section. Empanadas Alejandra serves up a mean empanada and tamale stuffed with charqui (stewed beef jerky).

balderrama1
balderrama2balderrama3
balderrama4
balderrama5
Peña Boliche Balderrama is kind of the king of the folklore show world in Salta, and they put on a great, rolicking, fun show (in the middle of the video above you’ll see some clips, including Henry getting up to dance with one of the show’s dancers). They also put out some relatively decent food for a place that’s catering to around 200 people at a time. Delicious salads, a decent pea tortilla (albeit with canned peas), goat stew, and steaks. 90 pesos apiece for the show, and acceptable, if slightly touristy, prices for the rest – all told for two of us, beverages, tip and all, 900 pesos – about $65 right now.

cabalgatogauchos1
cabalgatogauchos2
cabalgatogauchos3
We spent a day in the hills just northeast of Salta with Cabalgatas Gauchas, a family run horseback riding spot where we were treated to about an hour and a half of roaming the hills astride our trust steeds (well, mine was more of a mule it seemed, refusing to do much of anything – the guide, Guillermo, later said he wasn’t quite sure why they gave me that horse as normally only he or the assistant guide are ever able to even mount it – so he was impressed that I wasn’t tossed to the ground and actually managed to make it through the ride). They also whipped up a little asado for us, although the guy who was supposed to be cooking while we were out riding decided to go watch a telenovela on TV and never got around to lighting the fire. Guillermo took care of it from that point on – it made for a very late lunch, but some of the best homemade chorizos and morcillas we’ve ever had, great steaks, salads, and vegetables to go with it. We were the only guests that afternoon, so all that was for us!

chirimoyacafe1
chirimoyacafe2
chirimoyacafe3
Not long ago someone sent me an article about some of the top vegetarian restaurants in the world. They thought I’d find it interesting that one of them is located in Salta. I did. We decided to give it a shot, figuring that all the rest of our meals were going to be heavy on the meat side of things. Not only is Chirimoya vegetarian, but vegan. Now, the general gist we’d gotten is that they’re turning out world class vegan fare focused on recreating the classic dishes of the northwest of Argentina and southern parts of Bolivia and Peru. They’re not. In fact, this little family run cafe has a menu that’s all over the map, with versions of dishes from Japan, Thailand, the Middle East, Greece, France, Spain, Italy, and more. And to be honest, I have no idea how they made it onto a list of world class eateries. I love good vegetarian, even vegan, food, and this just isn’t it. Bland, completely unseasoned dishes, prettily plated, came ambling out of the kitchen after interminable waits (with few customers in the place). Overcooked grain based dishes (mushroom and brown rice stuffed grape leaves so dry you could break them; a lentil and rice “kibbe” with the texture of a desiccated brownie), or the other extreme, an ensalada rusa with nearly raw potatoes. The only really edible things on a trio of plates was the ubiquitous hummus (on all three dishes), though it lacked salt, spice, garlic, really anything but pureed chickpeas with oil; and the fruit based blender drinks (chicha morada for Henry, coconut and passionfruit for me) that didn’t arrive on the table until we were almost done with the appetizers. Asked why we weren’t eating anything by the sole waiter (during one of the moments he wasn’t on his phone, or chatting with friends who dropped by), we told him. He shrugged his shoulders, muttered que pena (what a pity), cleared the plates, brought the bill, and then took another 20 minutes to get around to processing it. Henry swears it was the worst meal of his life. It was certainly one of the worst vegetarian meals of mine.

elfortinquinua
elfortinmani
elfortinllama
elfortincabrito
Hired a guide and car for the next day to head up through the Quebrada de Humahuaca, the gorge, or canyon, that runs from a bit north of Salta around Jujuy, and on up to the town of Humahuaca itself. Amazing vistas (checkout that video above), and visits to several pueblos along the way. The guides all try to steer you to El Fortín, a large place with a show for the tourists, and free food for the guides who bring in their clients. We told Freddy we wanted something really authentic, and while he avowed he could steer us to one or another more intimate places in town, even when we offered to buy his lunch at one of them, he was sure we’d find the food at this place to be some of the best in town. It was actually very good (the show sucked, a trio of guys playing folk instruments, badly), with a delicious manjar inca (quinua in a vegetable sauce), sopa de maní (peanut soup), llama stew and braised goat. It’s probably slightly more expensive than less touristy spots in town, but at 400 pesos for a three course lunch (we got cheese and honey after the plates above), and a couple of bottles of water, it’s still a great deal at under $30 for two.

donasaltahumita
donasaltaempanada
donasaltamondongo
donasaltalentejas
Our guide highly recommended we have dinner at Doña Salta, near to our hotel back in Salta, which he said was his favorite place to take visiting friends and family for a real taste of local cuisine. Excellent humitas, empanadas, tamales, and the four classic stews of Argentina – we tried the lentil and tripe ones. I’d go back and try the two meat based ones another time – locro and carbonada. On request for a little hot sauce our waiter brought us an entire bowl of chopped fresh chilies to add to the mild salsa llawa that is ubiquitous on Salta tables (tomato, rocoto chilies, herbs). All that, a liter of the rather decent Salta dark beer, a couple of waters, and tip, for just barely over another 400 pesos for the night.

lodejuanamanuela1
lodejuanamanuela2
lodejuanamanuela3
A creative little cafe on the central plaza, where our hotel was also located (the quite excellent and accommodating Hotel Colonial), we grabbed our last lunch at Lo de Juana Manuela after visits to the Archaeological Museum (a must) and the Cabildo Museum (interesting, but not a must). Good salads, goat cheese empanadas, Henry went for fried calamari, I went for fried sweetbreads, which come with a fried banana, quite good guacamole, and an inexplicably huge dollop of unflavored mayo. Excellent hot sauce served on the side – the best one we had all trip. Inexpensive – I think with waters and tip we came in at under 300 pesos, and a lovely spot to watch the plaza from – better at night, as during the day, there are bees everywhere. Everywhere.

All in all, a great little mini-vacation for a few days. Only negatives about Salta – for a city that seems to run on tourism, almost no one takes credit or debit cards (other than local bank ones), which can make dining out a problem if you didn’t pack a lot of cash with you. And the places that do take them upcharge you by 10% for the “privilege”. It’s not that they’re not aware that there’s a federal law here requiring restaurants and many other businesses to accept credit cards, even international ones, and at no extra charge, they just don’t care. When we mentioned it to Freddy, he told us that we should have just stood up and started to walk out of any restaurant that refused to let us pay with a card, and he guaranteed they’d all suddenly remember that they had a terminal for swiping them.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

{ 3 comments }

New Openings, A World Apart

2016.Jan.27 Wednesday
Thumbnail image for New Openings, A World Apart

A duo of new spots that have opened up in Palermo. Different cuisines, different experiences. Life in the fast lane. Not So Wild About the Lotus I’d like to say that we were all excited here in the Asian food fan club when word came of the opening of a new Vietnamese restaurant… in Palermo… […]

Read the full article →

Thirty Days – Favorite Plates

2016.Jan.24 Sunday
Thumbnail image for Thirty Days – Favorite Plates

Just a look back at the last thirty days of dinners and some favorites out of the various dinners. A raved about favorite over the last year since we introduced it and brought it back numerous times, our combination Parihuela-Chupe, a tomato based seafood soup with a touch of dairy, miso, herbs, and plenty of […]

Read the full article →

Getting Around – There’s An App For That

2016.Jan.21 Thursday
Thumbnail image for Getting Around – There’s An App For That

The news hit here that Google Maps has added in public transit to its navigational strategies here in BA, and I thought it would be interesting to look at the options. They’re certainly not the first to do so, and right off the bat I can think of a trio of phone and desktop apps […]

Read the full article →

Bite Marks #24

2016.Jan.19 Tuesday
Thumbnail image for Bite Marks #24

I return from a self-imposed two week blogging hiatus, I needed to put my attention on other writing and home projects, and just take a break, refresh, and come back to it. Lots of stuff fixed and/or replaced around the apartment that I’ve been letting slide! You know the drill – the good, the bad, […]

Read the full article →

The Bread & Soup Project #10 – Australia

2016.Jan.05 Tuesday
Thumbnail image for The Bread & Soup Project #10 – Australia

Time for Round #10 of The Bread & Soup Project! So it seems that Australia, as a whole, just isn’t all that into soup. I checked in with friends, and my youngest brother, who live there, and the general consensus was, soup’s just not much of a thing. I broached the subject of the infamous […]

Read the full article →

The Annual Round-Up v. 2.0.1.5

2016.Jan.03 Sunday
Thumbnail image for The Annual Round-Up v. 2.0.1.5

Time once again for that annual look back at whatever, in my mind, made last year interesting. Let’s hit the Casa SaltShaker stuff first. 120 dinners, 1041 people. That’s pretty much the same as the previous year, at 123 dinners and 1096 people. Those are both a drop from the previous couple of years which […]

Read the full article →

Wine, More Wine

2015.Dec.27 Sunday
Thumbnail image for Wine, More Wine

Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda Rosé Brut Nature 2013, Mendoza, Argentina – pale pink, holding to the rim; apricot and minerals on the nose; moderate acidity, austere, bone dry, in fact, to the level I’m surprised this is classified as a Brut, I didn’t detect any residual sugar at all, light to medium bodied, minerally, under-ripe […]

Read the full article →

Bite Marks #23

2015.Dec.22 Tuesday
Thumbnail image for Bite Marks #23

Welcome to the 23rd installment of Bite Marks, my roughly every 3-4 week round-up of what we’ve been eating. Some of it is destined for further exploration, some of it is simply a reminder of the existence of some favorite spots, and some of it will be left by the wayside, never to be revisited. […]

Read the full article →